After a lot of track time this week at the Australian Open, Felix Auger-Aliassime has had plenty of time to settle into his rhythm.
The ninth-seeded Canadian took his top level to his third round, beating Briton Daniel Evans 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 in one hour and 53 minutes at the John Cain Arena on Saturday.
“It’s definitely one of the best Grand Slam performances I’ve had,” said Auger-Aliassime after the match. “It was a tight first set, I was lucky enough to get that breakpoint to serve out and then for some reason everything worked out for me today. I’m very happy because the first two games were really tough for me, so I’m happy to be through in straight sets.”
The Canadian had endured a five-set thriller with Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori in his opening match in Melbourne, before battling Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for over four hours in the second round.
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His opponent on Saturday could have taken no other path to the third round encounter. World No. 24 Evans allowed only seven games in a one hour and 48 minute first round win over David Goffin, then was given a second round walkover after Arthur Rinderknech withdrew with a wrist injury.
It was another short afternoon for Evans, but not in the way he’d wanted. The extra free time didn’t seem to have done the Brit any favors and he struggled for rhythm as Auger-Aliassime showed the tools that would take him to a first major semi-final at the US Open in September.
The Canadian hit 40 winners as he broke his opponent six times en route to a comfortable win. He took a tight first set by taking his only chance at a break and from then on it was a one-way street. Evans seemed to lose focus to concede an early break in the second set with a double fault, and his opponent made him pay. Auger-Aliassime finished with 16 aces, winning 91 percent (39/43) of points behind his first serve, increasing the pressure on Evans’ service games.
The world No. 9 was delighted to continue his strong start to the year, having led Team Canada to ATP Cup victory earlier in January. The win moves the 21-year-old to the fourth round in Melbourne for the second year in a row.
“I feel great, I feel like I deserve the place I am now,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I have worked very hard to get here. I’ve had some great games, but also some downs. I put the work into the off-season and I’ve had a great start, so I feel I deserve to be back here on round four. The start of the year has been great, so I have to try and keep it going.”
Auger-Aliassime then faces either fifth seed Andrey Rublev or former world No. 3 champion Marin Cilic. The Canadian has never beaten either player before, with a 0-3 ATP Head2Head record against Cilic and a 0-2 deficit to Rublev.
Either way, it’s going to be a great opportunity for me to test myself and see where my game stands,” said Auger-Aliassime of his fourth-round prospects. “I will look [the Rublev v Cilic match] on my bench, so it’s good to be ready and wait for my opponent.”